Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why does text in some Web browsers look so terrible?

A lot of people have switched to alternative Web browsers like Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari, but I’m sticking with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
The reason is simple: Internet Explorer is the only PC browser that seems to care about displaying text clearly. Using IE, headlines and body text look bold and sharp. In other browsers, typefaces look jagged and pixilated.
It practically hurts my eyes to look at this blog on Firefox or Chrome. Safari is better, but noticeably below the quality of IE.
See the accompanying images for a comparison of text from Firefox and Internet Explorer. The first image shows a side-by-side comparison of this blog’s “About me” box. (Firefox is on the left and IE is on the right.) The image below compares the date and headline from a recent blog post. (The Firefox sample is on top and IE sample is below it.)
On Wednesday, I discussed this issue with an expert: Doug Shaw, the chief executive officer of Monotype Imaging. Monotype provides digital fonts and text imaging technologies to makers of printers, personal computers, tablets, e-readers and other consumer electronics.
“The quality on these different browsers can vary dramatically,” Shaw said. “It’s always been a quandary to us. When you look at the browsers, my impression is that they spent a lot of time on performance, so how quickly they image; and spent a lot of time on the graphics, how vivid are the graphics. And depending on the browser, maybe a little less time on text.”
In other words, Web browser developers are much more interested in page load times and graphics than with rendering text clearly.
“Microsoft has a dedicated type group. They spend a lot of money and a lot of attention on fine-tuning, particularly the core fonts,” Shaw said.
The other guys? Not so much.
“There’s a pretty remarkable difference across the various platforms,” Shaw said.

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